Okan Ozcelik, a man who lost his sight after being struck by a tear gas canister during the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul last June, is battling to claim compensation for his injuries.
Along with footage of the incident captured by his own mobile phone, 32 year Ozcelik has provided the court with medical reports which state that he lost 90% of the sight in both eyes and has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder because of the effects of tear gas on his respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
However, the Interior Ministry rejected Ozcelik’s claims, adding to its defence that there was no document or information proving that the injuries were caused “by the actions of the administration.”
“There is no contradiction in the police’s intervention to an illegal demonstration harbouring violence, which harmed people and the unity of the country. The administration did what’s necessary within the boundaries of the law,” the ministry said in a defence provided on 3rd October, 2013.
The ministry also claimed that the damages caused to the plaintiff “were not clear,” despite the medical report signed by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV).
Istanbul’s Governor’s Office also denied the accusations, instead arguing that the institution could not be held responsible because Ozcelik had not been detained. A written response signed by Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan dating 2nd November, 2013 said, “Ozcelik’s name does not figure among those who were detained or against whom any action was undertaken.”
The video recording that was offered up as evidence by the prosecution leaves little doubt that Ozcelik was deliberately targeted by the police firing tear gas.
Within a few seconds of being hit by the gas canister, Ozcelik falls to the ground and is heard calling out for an ambulance at the end of the 30 second recording.
Over the summer months last year, thousands of protesters were injured, some permanently following the brutal use of water cannon and tear gas by police which brought widespread condemnation by the international community.
Across the country, six protesters died, most recently 15 year old Berkin Elvan who died this March having spent 269 days in a coma after sustaining head injuries from a tear gas canister fired by police.
An interior minister report released on 11th April showed the authorities had cleared the police and the Istanbul governor for the use of force during the Gezi protests.
The report said there was no need for an investigation as “no act contrary to the law was found” during the police raids.